By choosing to release Taish simultaneously as a film as well as a six-episode series, Bejoy Nambiar has mounted an interesting storytelling experiment. Film and series are of course two very different mediums and both have their strengths and weaknesses. A story which works in one medium may not work in the other and vice versa. But, before we analyse the two versions of Taish, let’s first try and put the storyline into perspective. Set in the UK, Taish revolves around a family of gangsters and a family of doctors. The two worlds clash amidst a wedding and all hell breaks loose. It’s essentially a tale of friendship, betrayal, love, and revenge. Taish stars Harshvardhan Rane, Pulkit Samrat, Sanjeeda Shaikh, Kriti Kharbanda, Jim Sarbh, Abhimanyu Singh, Saurabh Sachdeva, Saloni Batra, Zoa Morani, Ankur Rathee, and Ikhlaque Khan in pivotal roles.

People look up to Hollywood when it comes to the depiction of raw and gritty action. But what Bejoy Nambiar achieves in Taish is no mean feat. We are treated with some brilliant moments of action, whether one speaks of combat or chase sequences. Taish also offers intense and deeply passionate moments of romance. The brilliant editing, trippy soundscape, and breathtaking cinematography elevate Taish above anything seen in the Indian entertainment space in recent years. The single most amazing thing about Taish is that it starts on a moment of high intensity and Nambiar is able to maintain the level of intensity for the most part. Of course, there are many tender moments in between, but it does live up to its title which translates to rage and passion. 

When the two-time Oscar-winning director Ang Lee cast Tony Chiu-Wai Leung for the part of Mr Yee (a special agent and recruiter of the puppet government set up by the Japanese occupation in China) for his film Lust, Caution (2007), he made the actor study the performances of Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris (1972), Humphrey Bogart in In a Lonely Place (1950) and Richard Burton in Equus (1977), to give him a sense of wounded masculinity, which Lee thought was right characterisation for the role of Mr Yee. Now, their masculinity can be described as wounded because among other things there is a sense of self-destructive drive in all these characters. For example, the widower character Paul played by Brando in Last Tango in Paris enters an abusive relationship with a young girl while he is still mourning his wife’s recent suicide. Bogart’s temperamental screenwriter character in In a Lonely Place, Dixon Steele, a murder suspect, falls in love with a neighbour while on the verge of a breakdown. Now, I think we can safely add Harshvardhan Rane’s gangster character Pali Brar from Taish to the above list. Pali’s self-destructive drive is a result of losing out the love of his life to his elder brother who is like a father to him.

Pali is a powerhouse of a character and Rane immortalises it by delivering the best performance of his career thus far. It’s such a treat to see a non-Punjabi actor demonstrate such command over the Eastern Punjabi dialect. He showed a similar command over Punjabi in J.P. Dutta’s Paltan also but it mostly went unnoticed. Fortunately for Rane, it didn’t escape Nambiar’s attention. Rane’s chemistry with Sanjeeda Shaikh in Taish is riveting to watch and savour. Pulkit Samrat manages to show a different side to him in Taish. In a couple of scenes with Rane, he is even able to hold his own. Jim Sarbh is solid as ever. Some of the scenes that he shares with Pulkit and Kriti are really intense. Also, Saurabh Sachdeva, Abhimanyu Singh, Ikhlaque Khan, Saloni Batra, and Bikramjit Gurm deserve special mention for their memorable performances.

The film version of Taish runs at 143 minutes. On the other hand, the total runtime of the series is 178 minutes. Both versions are streaming on ZEE5. While the former unfolds linearly, the latter follows a non-linear narrative. After finishing both the versions (series followed by the film), I decided to approach the director with a basic question. I asked him which of the two versions does he personally prefers, and why? And I got a very interesting response. “It’s a tough question. Each version has its pros and cons and for me, it’s extremely difficult to choose one over the other,” replied Nambiar. So, which of the two versions is superior, according to me? Well, that simply depends on whether you prefer to watch it in a single seating or want to conveniently watch just one episode at a time. Perhaps, the film version can be approached as the theatrical cut and the series as the director’s cut. Nambiar’s films are always technically brilliant and one Hollywood filmmaker that he can be compared with is Michael Mann. Just like Mann, Nambiar has always been considered a master of style. But his films have always been accused of lacking substance. With Taish, however, he seems to have a successfully married style with equal parts of substance.

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